PHILADELPHIA -- Todd Haley unveiled his new offense, such as it is, Thursday night and there really was a big difference from those the Steelers have run the past several years.
It featured no Mike Wallace, no Rashard Mendenhall, a few missing starters in the line and, before the first team could get out of there, two knee injuries.
By the time the smoke and all the third- and fourth-stringers from both sides cleared the field, the Philadelphia Eagles came from behind to win, 24-23 on Alex Henery's 51-yard field goal with 12 seconds left.
The Steelers had taken the lead with 1:57 to go, 23-21, on rookie Daniel Hrapmann's 43-yard field goal.
Ben Roethlisberger spent one very long opening series tossing a lot of very short passes mixed among some short runs as the Steelers took 16 plays to move 52 yards and score on Shaun Suisham's 46-yard field goal.
Roethlisberger said, basically, that the offense was vanilla and really did not go deep into the playbook.
"They're a good team," Roethlisberger said of the Eagles, who play in Heinz Field for real on Oct. 7. "We expected big things from them and it's preseason so you are not seeing a bunch of crazy stuff. We just wanted to come out and be physical and see how we could match up."
Some air went out of that first drive when fullback David Johnson hobbled off with a right knee injury in the middle of it. On the second drive, rookie tackle Mike Adams joined him with his own right knee injury. Later, backup running back Jonathan Dwyer, who had put them in position to score a touchdown with a 33-yard run, left the game for good with a shoulder injury.
The Steelers did not immediately detail the seriousness of those injuries.
The idea in these first preseason games is to get the first team some quick work, then get them quickly out of there so the young players can get the work and the starters can stay safe.
Sometimes, it just doesn't go all as planned.
It was hard to tell whether Haley's offense went as planned or not. That first drive took nearly 10 minutes to move half a football field and only one play covered more than eight yards -- a 17-yard pass from Roethlisberger to Emmanuel Sanders down the left sideline after the quarterback scrambled away from pressure.
However, in the third quarter, 5-8 rookie halfback Chris Rainey showed what he might add to the new offense by ripping off a 53-yard touchown on a short pass from quarterback Jerrod Johnson, who played the entire second half.
"He is explosive," Roethlisberger said of the little rookie. "He brings a lot to the table and you never know what you are going to get. You just give him the ball and you sit there and watch because he is explosive and fun."
Antonio Brown, the Steelers' MVP last season, was not disappointed by what he saw.
"We came out, executed, got our looks, executed our new offense, got an opportunity to get a look at a defense opposite of ours and run our new plays," Brown said. "So it was a good chance to see the offense operate at a game level and ready ourselves from that aspect."
Among the things that did not differ from past years: Roethlisberger was sacked twice in that series, the first when Adams could not contain defensive end Phillip Hunt. Adams, their second-round draft choice, was promoted to the first team last week over veteran Trai Essex, but he still must hold off another veteran, Max Starks, currently on the physically unable to perform list. David DeCastro, their first-round pick, started at right guard because Ramon Foster moved to left guard for the injured Willie Colon.
Roethlisberger completed seven of eight for 49 yards on that drive that also lost 11 yards to sacks. Dwyer carried twice for 40 yards before his injury.
After Suisham's opening-drive field goal, the Steelers scored two more times in the second quarter for a 13-0 halftime lead.
Byron Leftwich threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders after two long runs set the Steelers up inside the five -- 14 on a draw by Rainey and 33 yards by Dwyer through a big hole off the left side that involved DeCastro.
"We definitely expect big things," Sanders said of the 2012 offense. "We don't really set limits. We feel like the sky is the limit so we don't put a limit on anything. We just go out and try to work extremely hard because it will all pay off."
Suisham kicked his second field goal, from 31 yards, after defensive end Al Woods returned an interception of backup Eagles quarterback Mike Kalfka 51 yards to the Philadelphia four.
But the emphasis on red zone efficiency this year hardly showed up after Woods' turned the ball over to his offense at the Eagles' four.
Baron Batch carried twice from the four, losing one and gaining one back. Rainey then took a handoff from Leftwich in the shotgun and was tackled for a nine-yard loss.
The Eagles finally scored in the third quarter, and did it in a big way when rookie Damaris Johnson flashed wide open and caught a 70-yard touchdown pass from rookie quarterback Nick Foles. Johnson put a move on Steelers cornerback Curtis Brown and got behind the entire Steelers secondary to make it 13-7.
The next time the Eagles got the ball, Foles went after Brown again. This time, Brown had good coverage on a deep pass down the left sideline but never saw the ball until it landed in the arms of Gilyard, who landed on the pylon for a 44-yard touchdown.
That was two consecutive plays, two touchdowns over Brown for 114 yards.
That gave Philadelphia a shortlived 14-13 lead. However, a few plays later the Steelers responded with a different kind of long touchdown pass. From the shotgun at his 43, quarterback Jerrod Johnson tossed a short pass to rookie Rainey, who had lined up next to him.
Rainey caught it at his 40 and turned it into a 57-yard touchdown reception by weaving through and then outrunning the Eagles' defense to the end zone.
The Steelers were back in front, 20-14.
Philadelphia regained a 21-20 lead with 5:26 left in the game when Trent Edwards tossed a 16-yard touchdown pass to Jamel Hamler, who eluded tacklers Myron Rolle and Andre Freeman to score.
Steelers - homepage - breaking
First Published August 10, 2012 12:15 AM